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Local News

Warehouse workers hope to gain traction from Joliet vote

Group seeks oversight of staffing agency practices

Warehouse Workers for Justice hopes its cause has gained some momentum from last week’s City Council vote blocking two staffing agencies from coming to Joliet.

The warehouse workers advocacy group had called for a moratorium before the 6-1 council vote on Monday that denied special use permits to two staffing offices.

No one on the council talked about a moratorium in turning down the two staffing agencies. Council members actually said very little when voting against the permits sought by HR Metrics and Innovative Staffing.

But the vote was “a big deal,” said Roberto Jesus Clack, associate director for Warehouse Workers for Justice.

“It is an acknowledgment that there is a real problem with the way warehouses are using temporary workers in their labor force,” Clack said.

Warehouse Workers for Justice contends that too many staffing agencies are used to create temporary workforces warehouses can use to keep wages low and avoid providing benefits.

The organization counts 14 staffing agencies in Joliet and 99 in Will County.

Staffing agencies that had planned to open offices in Joliet may pull back in light of last week’s vote, Clack said.

“I think effectively there might be a moratorium, which gives us time to work with the city council and other interested parties,” Clack said.

Warehouse Workers for Justice would like some sort of certification system for staffing agencies either at the state or local level to ensure that workers are not exploited.

Council member Pat Mudron, the one vote in favor of the staffing agencies, said the city does not have the resources to regulate the business.

“I feel for the people.” Mudron said. “But they [Warehouse Workers for Justice] are the organizers. If they know that the individuals are not being paid the right wage at a specific agency, why aren’t they naming names and picketing in front of the office?”

Mudron said corporations have turned to staffing agencies to reduce costs associated with hiring.

“If they think the big corporations of the world are going to start doing their own hiring, they have another thing coming,” he said.

Other council members, however, raised questions about the number of permanent jobs delivered by the staffing agencies. So did members of the zoning board.

Zoning board Chairman Ed Hennessy first suggested a moratorium on staffing agencies when that board voted on the permits in September.

“I never did believe these agencies provided a public service,” Hennessy said. “They’re only exploiting the underpaid and temporary workers.”

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